The Earth Summit 2002 (or to give its official title “The World Summit on Sustainable Development”) was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September 2002. It was convened by the United Nations to discuss sustainable development and was attended by a number of leaders from business and non-governmental organizations. As it was held 10 years after the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro it was nicknamed “Rio+10”.

The United States boycotted the summit and sent no delegation although Secretary of State Colin Powell did make a hurried address at the closing of the conference. The absence of the USA did somewhat limit what could be achieved.

The conference issued the Johannesburg Declaration which, in terms of the political commitment of parties, is a more general statement than the Rio Declaration. It set out agreements to focus particularly on “the worldwide conditions that pose severe threats to the sustainable development of our people, which include: chronic hunger; malnutrition; foreign occupation; armed conflict; illicit drug problems; organized crime; corruption; natural disasters; illicit arms trafficking; trafficking in persons; terrorism; intolerance and incitement to racial, ethnic, religious and other hatreds; xenophobia; and endemic, communicable and chronic diseases, in particular HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.”

There is an old saying that “actions speak louder than words” and sadly there have been far more words than action in the ten years since Earth Summit 2002. In June 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, commonly called Rio+20 or Rio Earth Summit 2012 was held in Rio once again. It will be interesting to see what progress has been made.

Somewhat surprisingly, particularly given the criticism of President George W. Bush for not attending the 2002 Summit, President Obama did not attend the 2012 meaning that the only US President ever to attend was George Bush (Snr).

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 Category: Historic Events


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